Monday, December 22, 2008

At a Fork in the Road

By: Arundhati Roy

The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent of a spate of terrorist a
ttacks on Indian cities this year [2008] in which hundreds of ordinary people have been killed and wounded.

Though nothing can ever justify terrorism, it exists in a particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm’s way.

Thanks largely to the part it was forced to play as America’s ally, first in its war in support of the Afghan Islamists and then in its war against them, Pakistan is careening towards civil war. The Pakistani government is presiding over a country that is threatening to implode. The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs and the maniacs who believe that Islam should rule the world is mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars. Their ire rains down on the Pakistan government and Pakistani civilians as much as it does on India.

If, at this point, India decides to go to war, perhaps the descent of the whole region into chaos will be complete. The debris of a bankrupt, destroyed Pakistan will wash up on India’s shores, endangering us as never before. If Pakistan collapses, we can look forward to having millions of ‘non-state actors’ with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at their disposal as neighbors.

How should we view the Mumbai attacks, and what are we to do about them? There are those who point out that US strategy has been successful in as much as the United States has not suffered a major attack on its home ground since 9/11. However, some would say that what America is suffering now is far worse. The US army is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which

have made the United States the most hated country in the world. These wars have contributed greatly to the unravelling of the American economy. Hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of American soldiers, have lost their lives. The frequency of terrorist strikes on US allies and US interests in the rest of the world has increased dramatically.

Homeland security has cost the US government billions of dollars. Few countries, certainly not India, can afford that sort of price tag. But even if we could, the fact is that this vast homeland of ours cannot be secured or policed in the way the United States has been. It’s not that kind of homeland. We have a hostile nuclear weapons state that is slowly spinning out of control as a neighbor, we have a military occupation in Kashmir, and a shamefully persecuted, impoverished minority of more than a hundred and fifty million Muslims who are being targeted as a community and pushed to the wall, whose young see no justice on the horizon, and who, were they to totally lose hope and radicalise, end up as a threat not just to India, but to the whole world. If ten men can hold off the NSG commandos and the police for three days, and if it takes half-a-million soldiers to hold down the Kashmir Valley, do the math. What kind of Homeland Security can secure India?

What we’re experiencing now is the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds.

The only way to contain terrorism is to look at the monsters in the mirror: Kashmir, Gujarat and the demolition of the Babri Masjid. We’re standing at a fork in the road. One sign says ‘Justice’, the other ‘Civil War’. There’s no third sign and there’s no going back. Choose.

[Edited by Mahendra Meghani from Outlook : 22-Dec-2008]

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